The wages of a hired worker shall not abide with you [through the night] until morning. (Lev. 19:13)

In another verse [that details this commandment], it is written, "You shall give [him] his wages on the day he [earns them]." (Deut. 24:15) The initials of these words [in Hebrew, "beyomo titein secharo"] spell "Shabbat". This is because whenever a person performs any commandment or learns a lot of Torah on a weekday, he accrues an additional level of Shabbat holiness - even on the weekday. This applies to the [full] extent individuals are capable of accruing additional measures of Shabbat holiness.

Performing mitzvot increases the individual's divine consciousness…

Learning Torah and performing mitzvot increases the individual's divine consciousness. Since Shabbat is the day of higher, divine, consciousness, we may understand the additional measure of divine consciousness attained by learning Torah and doing mitzvot as a "piece of Shabbat" that is added the individual. This happens, of course, even in the case of divine service performed on weekdays.

This fits with what Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught, namely, that Torah scholars possess on weekdays the [level of] soul that ignoramuses possess on the Shabbat.

Thus, the reward that G‑d grants Torah scholars for their studies, or to those who observe the commandments, is likened to that of a worker who expects his wages. This is because such people earn their [spiritual] delights daily - even on weekdays - when they accrue additional measures of Shabbat holiness. Therefore, the initials of these words allude to the Shabbat.

Furthermore, the wages mentioned in this verse can be understood, as well, to refer to the reward one earns each day [for his study and/or observance of the Torah]. These combine with the other [reward], the additional measure of Shabbat holiness that comes automatically with the Shabbat, as is known.

On Shabbat, every Jew's consciousness ascends a spiritual notch, no matter what.

Thus, these two additional measures [of divine consciousness] are given to the person on Shabbat. In this sense, [both types of] "wages" paid to this type of "worker" are paid on the Shabbat. The Shabbat is therefore alluded to in this verse, and this is the mystical meaning of "he who toils on the day[s] before the Shabbat will eat on the Shabbat." (Avoda Zara 3a)

The physical sense of this statement is simply that if one prepares his meals and other needs before Shabbat, he will be able to enjoy them on Shabbat; if not, he will have nothing to enjoy because the preparations he should have done beforehand are forbidden to do on Shabbat.

One cannot expect to live…like an animal during the week and suddenly turn into an angel on Shabbat…

The spiritual sense of the statement is that the extent of one's spiritual experience or level of consciousness on Shabbat is proportional to the amount of spiritual preparation for Shabbat one engages in during the preceding week. In more prosaic terms: one cannot expect to live (think, eat) like an animal during the week and suddenly turn into an angel on Shabbat; if a person doesn't want to be left out of the action on Shabbat, he'd better put some time into refining himself while he still can - during the week. True, as we said above, every Jew's spiritual consciousness ascends automatically on Shabbat, but without the prior weekday preparation, he cannot "cash in" or "tune in to" this consciousness, since he has done nothing to prepare a vessel to receive it.

Additionally, [this verse implies] that specifically someone who fulfills the commandment of paying a worker [on time] acquires the ability to attain an additional level of soul the following Shabbat. This reward is given to him measure for measure, for with regard to paying a worker [on time] it is said, "for…he lifts up his soul to you." (Deut. 24:15) Therefore, in recompense [for granting him his soul, so to speak], the employer is likewise given an extra level of soul with which to sustain his [weekday] soul [on the Shabbat]. And therefore, the Shabbat is alluded to in the initials of this verse.

The idiomatic meaning of "he lifts up his soul" is "he looks expectantly" or "he directs his desire."

Rabbi Chaim Vital now gives us an anecdotal illustration of the extent to which the Arizal took his own teachings seriously.

My teacher [the Arizal] was extremely careful regarding the commandment of paying a worker [on time]. He sometimes put off praying Mincha until he had paid [his worker]. This sometimes meant waiting to pray until sunset if he did not have the cash on hand to pay the wages. And he would send people all over to ask others for money until he had enough to pay the wages. Only then would he pray Mincha, saying, "How can I pray to G‑d when such a great mitzvah comes my way? Can I put it off and still face G‑d in prayer?"

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Ta'amei HaMitzvot and Sefer HaLikutim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.